Hiking is becoming more popular by the day, with over 42 million Americans claiming to be participants in 2016 (an increase from 37 million in 2015). For those of us who love the sport, it’s easy to understand the appeal. After all, where else can you get away from crowds and simply immerse yourself in the beauty of Mother Nature? Of course, not everyone feels comfortable launching themselves into a new activity without any prep work or guidance, and this can be the case for hiking as well. Guided hiking trips are becoming more common as novices to the sport flock to experienced outfitters to show them the ropes. Not familiar with the concept? Check it out.
What Are Guided Hiking Trips?
Picture this: you are brand-new to the sport and you want to tackle a local trail but have no idea where to start, let alone own any of the necessary gear. What do you do? This is where guided hiking trips can be a lifesaver. Cropping up around the country, guided hiking trips take the guesswork out of the journey and allow you to simply enjoy the ride. Various outfitters provide knowledgeable and experienced guides that hit the trail with you, and many of these outfitters provide the necessary gear as well. Often, these guides can share tidbits of trail info and history, making the trek even more fun and educational than it would be on your own. Of course, this all comes with an often pricey fee, but it’s a great way to discover whether or not you love the sport without dealing with the stress and anxiety of the unknown. Plus, paying for a guided trip is going to cost you a lot less money than outfitting your entire family with brand-new gear. Maybe you aren’t a novice to day hiking but you’d really like to tackle a large and extravagant hike in a faraway land? Hiking tours can also help with this. Often, experienced hikers hear of bucket-list hikes in various parts of the world and really want to give them a try. Of course, carting all of your gear to another state can be both difficult and expensive. And trying to arrange multi-day hiking logistics in a foreign country and a different language? Forget about it! This is another instance when adult adventure vacations may be the answer to your problems. Pay the associated fee, arrive in the country, and enjoy the hike of your dreams — sans all the added logistical stress.
Four Awesome Guided Hiking Trips
Some of the world’s best hikes are available via a guided hike; just reading about the trip descriptions gets us excited to hit the trail. Here are four ridiculously amazing hiking trips that we’re just itching to try out ourselves.
The Snowman Trek, Bhutan, with One World Trekking
Let’s start out with a granddaddy of hiking trips: Bhutan’s Snowman Trek. This monthlong adventure takes you to the Kingdom of Bhutan, a country long known for its privacy and desire to preserve its culture. Due to this, the government imposes a strict minimum spend on all tourists (US $200-250/day including accommodation and food) that virtually eliminates the backpacking crowd. You also cannot travel independently; you must use a guide while in the country. Once you know all of this, the Snowman Trek doesn’t seem quite as daunting. Yes, you will still need a guide, but who wouldn’t want an experienced individual to help them out with this monthlong trek that covers nine different mountain passes over 15,000 feet in elevation?
Hiking tour details:
Mt. Rainier, Washington, with Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI)
Mt. Rainier is an icon on the United States west coast, and there is no company more qualified to lead you to the summit than RMI. Mt. Rainier (14,410 feet) is both an active volcano and the most glaciated peak in the lower 48. It marks a turning point for experienced and novice mountaineers alike, but remains a must-do on any burgeoning mountaineer’s bucket list. For many aspiring peak baggers, a guiding service is the best and safest way to reach the summit, and RMI has long been the guiding company of choice. The guiding fees include a pre-trip orientation, a mountaineering day school to prep you on the necessary skills, and a 2-3 day guided summit bid on the mountain itself.
Hiking tour details:
Tour Company: Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. Family/Dog-Friendly: Dogs are not allowed on the mountain. While some older children have summited the peak with their parents, it’s not generally considered to be a kid-friendly climb. Testimonial: “Great mountaineering school for novice and intermediate climbers. Instructors teach you everything you need to safely claim a mountain and 'climb' down (which is more dangerous than going up).” - William P., Yelp
The Narrows in Zion National Park, Utah, with Zion Adventure Company
The Narrows is one of the most iconic hikes in Zion National Park. While any hiker can do this bottom-up day hike, those wanting to learn more about the history, the flora, the fauna, and the overall geology of the canyon walls may want to consider a guided hiking trip. Bottom-up hikes range in distance depending on where you turn around; the farther you hike in, the farther your hike-out distance. The trek can be done year-round, but most guiding companies recommend winter treks only for experienced hikers due to the freezing temps and existing icy conditions. The guided treks include transportation to/from the trailhead along with a guided trek to the turnaround point at the junction with Orderville Canyon. Depending on the pace of your group, plan to spend 5-8 hours hiking.
Hiking tour details:
Tour Company: Zion Adventure Company Family/Dog-Friendly: Dogs are not allowed, but this hike is family-friendly. Zion Adventure Company requests that children be at least 12 years old for winter hikes, while they can be as young as 8 years old for hikes in warmer months. Testimonial: “My family of four (kids 7 and 12 y/o) had a great time on the half-day Family Canyoneering Adventure. Package includes gear (backpack, helmet, ropes). Our guide, Bill, was fantastic--enthusiastic, knowledgeable, warm, safety/oriented, and kept the kids engaged.” - Lisa D., Yelp
The W Trek in Torres del Paine, Chile, with EcoCamp
Perhaps one of the most famous hikes in all of Patagonia, the W Trek in Torres del Paine is not to be missed. This standard five-day/four-night trek is a must-do for anyone who enjoys nature, but a guided tour may be a better option if you aren’t quite sure about overnight backpacking. If you luck out and score beautiful weather in the notoriously fickle Patagonia, you will be in for a rare treat! If that sounds like you, the guided treks by EcoCamp may be the ticket. EcoCamp Patagonia uses a type of dome lodging, specifically designed by the company in an effort to allow visitors to connect with nature while exploring the park but still minimizing their footprint. The domes use all-natural light and heat energy, while the electricity comes from hydro and solar energy. Of course, this sustainable living doesn’t come cheap, but if a guided trek with environmental awareness is top priority for you, EcoCamp is worth a look.
Hiking tour details:
Tour Company: EcoCamp Patagonia Family/Dog-Friendly: Young children are not very common on this trek, but you do occasionally see them. The trek may be suitable for older children if they are accustomed to hiking and potentially inclement weather. Dogs are not allowed. Testimonial: “Our guide Roberto was incredible -- extremely knowledgable and did everything he could to ensure we'd have a great stay. We truly enjoyed spending time with him, and his passion for the park really showed. We were with a small group the whole time, ranging from just the two of us to four people total. The best day was the 15 mile hike to the base of the towers, best hike I've ever done.” - Maggie H., TripAdvisor